Virginia Lottery Approves Casino Regulations in 5 Cities

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The Virginia Lottery Board approved Wednesday a set of proposed regulations to govern the casino gambling industry a year after legalizing the expanded gaming. The proposed regulations now go to Gov. Ralph Northam for his signature after which a public comment period will follow, leading up to final approval by the lottery board.

The latest proposal is built upon initial emergency casino regulations previously passed by the board on Feb. 3.

Four Virginia cities finalized deals to build the state’s first casinos after local voters approved the measure in Nov. 2020. A fifth casino will also be built a year later.

The General Assembly approved a measure last year allowing those localities to consider gambling after local officials requested to find ways to boost their economies.

Four Casinos Will Open First

Four proposed land-based casinos – in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth – will open first. The local voters in these areas approved the measure last November. The fifth proposed casino in Richmond will open following approval from voters in Nov. 2021.

The application period for casino operators opened in April after which the lottery followed a standard procedure, conducting a thorough review of each application, including criminal history and financial review.

“The Lottery’s Gaming Compliance Department and Office of General Counsel have been working tirelessly to form a regulatory and licensing framework to ensure casino gaming in Virginia is secure and transparent,” said Virginia Lottery Executive Director, Kevin Hall.

He noted that the lottery is the public’s watchdog, adding that the law and regulations are followed and the integrity of casino gambling is protected.

When Will Casino Gaming Be Operational?

Hard Rock Bristol, which has already applied for a casino license, is in the process of getting its contractors. Once it receives a nod from the lottery, Hard Rock Bristol plans to open a temporary casino site in the former Belk building, while work on the main casino site is underway.

Meanwhile, Headwaters Resort and Casino in Norfolk is planned for the Downtown area of the city in southeastern Virginia. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe revealed the name for the casino in May.

Officials believe the first phase of the project will be completed by 2023.

Additionally, Rush Street Gaming has obtained approval from the City of Portsmouth City Council to begin construction on the Rivers Casino later this year. Rush Street Gaming plans to open the casino by 2022 or early 2023.

How Have We Reached Here?

Last March, Virginia House and Senate approved a bill legalizing casinos in five cities, allowing Danville, Bristol, Richmond, Portsmouth, and Norfolk, to approve casino gaming in their localities.

The state legislature approved the measure with a view to bringing more money and jobs to the area.

In 2019, a study claimed a casino could bring over 2000 jobs in Danville, adding that a casino would have no impact on crime, as feared by some residents who rejected the casino legalization in Old Dominion.

Virginia is one of only 10 states with no casinos, and casino gambling has been considered taboo until recently. Economic woes of the state helped lawmakers to reevaluate the multimillion-dollar industry, promising ample jobs and considerable tax revenues to the states with the legalized gaming industry.

The voters in four Virginia cities endorsed local casinos by nearly 2-to-1 margins.

What’s Next?

The recently approved proposed regulations now head to Gov. Ralph Northam, and after the executive signature, a 60-day public comment period will follow, at the end of which the Lottery Board will make the final approval.

The state’s General Assembly assigned the regulatory oversight of expanded gaming – which also includes mobile sports betting – in the Commonwealth to the Virginia Lottery last year.

Virginia Lottery will soon submit a monthly report for sports betting, which launched in January this year.

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